ID: ML2021_004_086 / Ron Green

TitleWhen the steamer brought trippers to Mersea
AbstractOver a century ago the little steamboat SS Annie was to be seen working from Maldon. No one knows where or when she was built but when the Manchester Ship Canal was opened in 1893, she was one of a number of similar vessels doing pleasure cruises there. The cruises were not profitable so Annie was moved on. She next appeared doing cruises on Ipswich River, from where London brewer Charrington purchased her.

SS ANNIE off Osea Island - Ron Green watercolour

Charrington had recently bought Osea Island as a drying out home for alcoholics. Annie was employed running from Maldon to Osea Pier and was very popular with day trippers. During the summer and with favourable tides, she would come down river to Bradwell or Mersea. The time table for August 1910 gives times and fares. Maldon to West Mersea return was 1/- (5p). Passengers could also be dropped off at the recently constructed Tollesbury Pier. It's disturbing to see that the return trip could only be offered if there was room, but it does show a bus service between Mersea and Colchester- probably by Berry's wagonette, and train times to London and Maldon East.

There were also moonlight cruises where the boat was lit by lanterns. It was said to be very popular with courting couples - I bet it was... With the start of the 1914 war, Annie was laid up in an old barge dock round the back of Osea and when peace came she was found to be in a very poor state with the steam engine stripped of it's brass and copper. Mr Henry Lamont bought her and spent a fortune bringing her up to Board of Trade standards to carry 151 passengers. He also had the steam engine, boiler and coal bunkers removed and a 37bhp petrol/paraffin engine installed, the space created was filled with a bar. We wonder what Mr Charrington thought of that? Maybe he supplied the beer. Although the new engine was more economical, the older passengers disliked the vibration and paraffin fumes compared to the smooth running sweeter smelling steam engine. Maldon Annie, as she was renamed, was sold away and in 1940 was working on the Thames from where she was requisitioned and sent to Dunkirk to take part in the evacuation. She was thought to have been used as a pontoon. She never returned.

Annie had a double ended wooden hull which originally had a rudder and propeller at each end. She was 56.4ft long by 12.2 ft beam. Down below, there were saloons fore and aft, with the engine and boiler occupying the centre.

Article published in Mersea Life magazine April 2021.

AuthorRon Green
PublishedApril 2021
SourceMersea Museum